Trafficked women being transported “from one hell to another”

30 Jul, 2019 | Women's Rights, Work Experience

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By Grace, Work Experience July 2019

Slavery, trafficking and indefinite detention are some of the greatest human rights issue of our time, affecting the mental health of those most vulnerable, to the brink of everlasting despair.

Chinese women specifically, are amongst those most vulnerable, who have been trafficked into sexual exploitation or forced labour in the UK and then locked up in Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre by the Home Office, just to endure another living hell for an indefinite amount of time, as the UK is the only country in Europe without a time limit on immigration detention. Currently, Chinese women make up the largest group of nationality of women in Yarl’s Wood centre, with around 500 being detained in 2018, and 92% of them eventually being released thus questioning the purpose of the system. In 2018, a report found that:

  1. The Home Office is detaining women who are encountered in exploitative situations, ignoring clear indicators that they are being trafficked
  2. The Home Office is disregarding its own guidance in order to refuse trafficking cases, and not supporting women whom they have recognised as survivors of trafficking
  3. These women are being kept in detention for very long periods (every one of the 14 cases considered was detained for more than a month) even when their mental health is clearly deteriorating

These women are being kept in detention for very long periods (every one of the 14 cases considered was detained for more than a month) even when their mental health is clearly deteriorating

On July 9th, a debate was held at parliament to discuss immigration detention of survivor’s trafficking and modern slavery. During this, Alison Thewliss MP highlighted some of the many problems with immigration detention centres “itis hugely expensive, itis traumatising, it damages lives”, bringing to light one woman who was in detention for nine months, enduring the anxieties and fears of not knowing when she was to be released. This has a significant impact on her mental health and wellbeing. Another Chinese woman who was in Yarl’s Wood detention centre had brought to light her story, emphasising the system failure to protect vulnerable victims.

“The gang leaders forced me to do things that I didn’t want to do, things that made me feel ashamed. They made me have sex with men who would come to the house where I was imprisoned. If I tried to refuse they would beat me and starve me. I would often go for three days with no food or water. Then one day men in uniforms came to the house. I was terrified and tried to hide but they found me. They dragged me out and took me to the police station. Later, I was put in another van. It drove for a long time through the night and ended up at Yarl’s Wood. I was taken from one hell to another”

This is just one of hundreds of stories, stories of women who are not immigration offenders, rather, they are victims of crime. If everyone has a right to their own life, why is the government taking away the happiness and support that these women deserve, leaving them so isolated and humiliated that they don’t want to live anymore? As soon as these women are placed in detention, their wellbeing is placed in the Home Office’s hands, yet, they are neglected, treated inhumanely ‘like animals in a cage’, remaining scared that if they voice their stories to the police their familys will be killed, or that they themselves will be killed. The Adults At Risk policy states that individuals that claim to have been subjected to specific experiences of sexual violence or torture that may inhibit their ability to cope within a detention environment, should be factored into any consideration of detention and their general management through the immigration process. More too often, , these assessments have not been taken into account by the Home Office when victims arrive at their door, disregarding the individuals physical and mental state, leaving them to endure another living hell they cannot escape.

That is why we need to be their voice, we must all try and share the stories of these mistreated women who are being denied their rights for acts which they never wished to take part in, in hope for a more supportive and suitable system in the future. As part of its work, René Cassin, the Jewish voice for human rights, campaigns for a 28-day time limit on immigration detention as well as promotes and campaigns for a holistic and needs-based system for victims of modern slavery.

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